What’s Good About Being A Caregiver? – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® – Episode 107 October 13, 2021. On this episode, What’s Good About Being a Caregiver? Caregiving expert and host, Pamela D Wilson shares the blessings, disappointments, challenges, and lessons to be learned from the experience of caring for aging parents and loved ones. Guest. Dr. Andrea B Maier shares research about longevity. Why do we feel older or younger than our actual age? How does overall health affect aging?
To listen to the caregiving podcast, click on the round yellow play button below. To download the show so that you can listen anywhere and share it with family, friends, and groups, click on the button (the fourth black button from the left) below that looks like a down arrow. Click the heart to go to Pamela’s Spreaker podcast page to like and follow the show. You can also add the podcast app to your cellphone on Apple, Google, and other favorite podcast sites.
What’s Good About Being a Caregiver?
0:00:04.0 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
The Blessings, Joys, Challenges & Disappointments Of Caregiving Relationships
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
0:00:37:217 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, consultant, and guardian of The Caring Generation. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring. Giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, and everything in between. It’s no surprise that needing care or becoming a caregiver changes everything. The Caring Generation is here to guide you along the journey to let you know that you’re not alone.
0:01:05:87 Pamela D Wilson: You are in exactly the right place to share stories, learn about caregiving programs and resources to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead. Invite your aging parents, spouses, family, and friends to listen to the show. If you have a question or an idea for a future show, share your idea with me by responding to my social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Linked In.
0:01:31:84 Pamela D Wilson: Today, I’m answering the question, What’s Good About Being a Caregiver? You will receive answers to these common caregiving questions—whether you are a family caregiver, a person interested in a healthcare career, or you already are a home health aide or a CNA working in a care community. What are the benefits of being a caregiver? What are the effects of being a caregiver?
0:01:59:96 Pamela D Wilson: What are the pros and cons, the disadvantages, and the risks of being a caregiver? What is the importance of being a caregiver, and what’s the best thing about being a caregiver? Answers you won’t want to miss. Our guest joins us to talk about longevity. Specifically, how to live a long and healthy life. Dr. Andrea B Maier is Oon Chiew Seng Professor in Medicine, Healthy Ageing and Dementia Research, Co-
0:02:33:39 Pamela D Wilson: Director at Centre for Healthy Longevity, National University Health System, National University of Singapore. She is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, she graduated in Medicine in 2003 from the University of Lübeck in Germany, was registered in 2009 in The Netherlands as a Specialist in Internal Medicine-Geriatrics, and was appointed Full Professor of Gerontology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 2013.
0:03:38:65 Pamela D Wilson: Professor Maier’s research focuses on unraveling the mechanisms of ageing and age-related diseases. She has published more than 330 peer-reviewed articles and is currently President of The Australian and New Zealand Society for Sarcopenia and Aging Research. The subject of longevity is important as it relates to actions caregivers and older adults can take to support good health which results in a lower need for care when older.
0:03:30:00 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s begin to answer questions about what’s good about being a caregiver. I’ve categorized my responses into four areas: the best things, learning through interactions with others, the effects, risks, disadvantages, and finally, work-life-caregiving-you-balance. Let’s begin with the best things about being a caregiver. Caregivers want to believe that their actions make a difference in the lives of others.
0:04:09:97 Pamela D Wilson: Adult children, spouses, family members, and caregiving professionals have a desire to help other people. Professional caregivers will say they have a “servant’s heart.” To others, what’s good about being a caregiver begins with the idea of advocating for others due to personal or professional experience. When I first began my career in aging over twenty years ago, people would ask what I do, and my simple 4-word response was, “I help old people.”
0:04:43:46 Pamela D Wilson: Some individuals responded positively if they had a good experience with older adults. Others looked at me like I was crazy—probably thinking but not saying—”ooh, old people, ick, I don’t know why you would want to do that.” My story that many of you know from listening to this podcast or visiting my website is that I experienced the death of both of my parents and many older family members at a very young age.
0:05:11:41 Pamela D Wilson: As a child, I spent a lot of time around my older family members, and I loved them all. So it might be expected that based on this positive personal life experience, I would pursue a career helping the elderly and disabled. For me, the answer to what’s good about being a caregiver is the difference I made and still make today in the lives of older adults and their family caregivers because of the depth and breadth of my experience, which is unique.
0:05:44:37 Pamela D Wilson: If you are listening and curious, I’ll post a link to my bio page on my website where you can learn more in this transcript. Family members I speak with become advocates for elderly parents and spouses through the role and responsibility of being caregivers. Advocacy is a learned skill. Just like caregiving, it’s not something you’re born with.
0:06:10:18 Pamela D Wilson: And the desire to go further to help aging parents, clients, or patients involves learning how to advocate with family members plus the healthcare system, doctors, nurses, nursing home staff, home health care agencies, and others. Family and professional caregivers experience a deep sense of self-satisfaction and positive self-esteem from helping others, even though this type of work isn’t always easy.
0:06:41:97 Pamela D Wilson: And yes, caregiving is work regardless of whether you are family or not. Becoming a caregiver of any type involves a lot of on-the-job learning, research, and investigation. Surveys confirm that family caregivers are unsure where to find reliable and trustworthy resources or how to pay for care costs. Families, where an adult child is a home health care worker may assume that knowledge exists about how to navigate the system.
0:07:13:21 Pamela D Wilson: The healthcare industry is segmented. Persons working in one area, like home health, may know nothing about other areas. For example, medical home health care is different from non-medical home health. Medicaid home health is different from a private duty caregiver agency. Speech, physical, and occupational therapy are different. For these reasons, including the care experiences of elderly parents, caregivers have an opportunity to learn things they never expected.
0:07:55:30 Pamela D Wilson: In addition, caregivers will do things they never expected. Simple tasks around the house that we all do for ourselves are easy to duplicate for aging parents. Hands-on care tasks like taking blood sugar, blood pressure readings, emptying catheter bags, changing an ostomy bag, using a transfer or pivot lift, or a simple gait belt benefit from training from a healthcare professional.
0:08:27:86 Pamela D Wilson: Bathing a parent can be at first an uncomfortable or embarrassing task that caregivers eventually perform with ease. As parents need more and more care, the opportunity to attend medical appointments, medical treatments, and more grow. Assisting in managing a parent’s bill-paying or financial matters can become a routine task. If parents have a financial manager or a CPA, caregivers frequently become involved in conversations with these professionals.
0:09:03:75 Pamela D Wilson: Legal questions about the power of attorney, a living will, or a will may arise. In this case, family caregivers may be speaking to an elder law, probate, or estate planning attorney. While caregiving is seen as a family role, the responsibilities extend far outside of the family to work with everyone involved or providing support to a parent who needs care from thousands of miles away.
0:09:35:90 Pamela D Wilson: In some situations, adult children caregivers may make all medical or financial decisions for parents when dementia or Alzheimer’s disease advances, or when parents can no longer evaluate information or make decisions due to memory loss or other related health conditions. Mention of health conditions takes us to the subject of chronic disease, which has the greatest effect on the daily lives of all adults—young and old.
0:10:09:87 Pamela D Wilson: Prevention, early identification, management, and learning about chronic disease is the single most important step that every adult can take to minimize the effects of aging and reduce the likelihood of needing significant care from family members when older. This is the one solution that the healthcare system doesn’t offer because they are not financially incentivized to prevent disease and health issues before they occur.
0:10:46:93 Pamela D Wilson: Hospital systems, nursing homes, doctors, and healthcare providers are financially reimbursed by treating consumers after they are sick. It sounds a little backward, yes? Until consumers and caregivers begin to learn about the importance of focusing on health prevention and better quality of life, all of the issues in the healthcare system, including the costs of care for the elderly, Medicare, Medicaid, will continue to be a problem.
0:11:22:83 Pamela D Wilson: It’s my personal belief that the only way the system will change is through the efforts of consumers like you and professional advocates like me. There must be a balance of chasing after the problems with an equal or greater effort focused on preventing the issues. This seems like an age-old issue that the government should solve, but it’s not solvable by one single means.
0:11:51:61 Pamela D Wilson: A lack of education about prevention is an issue where consumers must become self-educated and self-directed about how the healthcare system works. What it does and what it doesn’t provide. This action is similar to the idea of self-directed care. That’s a term that you may have heard if you have experience working with the Medicaid system. Self-directed care “assumes caregivers have the right and the ability to assess their own needs.”
0:12:24:70 Pamela D Wilson: I want to press the pause button there. My opinion is that caregivers definitely have the right but they must become more educated to assess their own needs, especially medical and healthcare. Continuing with the definition “determine how and by whom those needs are met,” – I fully support caregivers taking responsibility into their own hands. And then finally “evaluate the quality of the service they receive.” I agree with this statement, too – however, the caveat is that while consumers may evaluate the quality of services we receive
0:13:05:66 Pamela D Wilson: – if we’re honest medical providers are not customer service oriented. Healthcare isn’t a consumer good like cereal or toilet paper or laundry detergent that we vote for by paying for the item. With healthcare, we have limited choices and most of the time, we don’t know the total cost for a doctor’s visit or service. If we did, we might make different choices. Changing health insurance or a doctor isn’t as easy as buying a different brand of cereal or toilet paper or laundry detergent. It’s a big deal.
0:13:44:04 Pamela D Wilson: We’re off to a break. If you are looking for help navigating the healthcare system, decision-making about care for elderly parents, or making a care plan for yourself, I can help. Visit my website PamelaDWilson.com and schedule an eldercare consultation. Click on How I Help, next Family Caregivers, and next Eldercare Consultation. This is Pamela Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker on The Caring Generation. Stay with me; I’ll be right back.
0:14:43:29 Pamela D Wilson:
This is Pamela Wilson on The Caring Generation. Pay it forward to help others who may be dealing with health, aging, or caregiving issues by sharing information about this show and my website pameladwilson.com. The Caring Generation is available worldwide on your favorite podcast and music apps: Apple, Google, I Heart Radio, JioSaavn, Spreaker, Amazon Music, Breaker, Deezer, Listen Notes, Pandora, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, Stitcher, Spotify, Tune In, and Vurbl.
0:15:17:93 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s return to answer the question of what’s good about being a caregiver. Before the break, we talked about all caregivers’ learning opportunities regarding chronic disease and age-related diseases. Everything you learn about managing the diseases of aging parents – heart disease, diabetes, breathing issues like COPD, arthritis, kidney disease, and others you can apply to yourself to prevent being diagnosed with any of these diseases.
0:15:52:64 Pamela D Wilson: While it may not seem like it – the knowledge and education that caregivers gain through caring for aging loved ones truly is priceless in the value and impact it can have on your life IF you learn from the experience. Professional caregivers have the same opportunity in their experiences. Whether you work in a hospital, a doctor’s office, a nursing home, care community, or home care, pay attention to your daily experiences and ask yourself, how can I use this knowledge to educate myself and my family?
0:16:32:13 Pamela D Wilson: We have an opportunity to learn something new every day if we are open to receiving new information. Caregivers also impact future family generations by talking about health prevention and experiences in caring for aging parents, siblings, grandparents, and children. What do you want for your children? Do you expect them to duplicate your experience with your aging parents, or do you want a better or different experience for your children?
0:17:06:80 Pamela D Wilson: There’s no time like the present to think and talk about this in your family. Too many times, caregivers become exhausted or burned out and want the caregiving experience to be over. How many of us feel that way. Not realizing, though, that it will return in one form or another. Caring for another family member or becoming the person who needs care. There’s no escaping it. We will become a caregiver for another person or become the person who needs care.
0:17:40:39 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s move on to the second category of responses to what’s good about being a caregiver. This takes us to the idea of interactions with others. Specifically, the duty and responsibility that adult children feel to care for aging parents. This is an interesting aspect of care relationships because every child views their relationship with a parent differently. Some favor mom, some favor dad.
0:18:11:01 Pamela D Wilson: Some like both parents equally. These relationships differences begin when we are young and carry through the rest of our lives. The quality of the relationship you have with your parents has a significant effect on the interest of children caring for you. Think about this today, if you have children. Is your relationship positive that they would be willing to give up part of their lives to care for you?
0:18:41:37 Pamela D Wilson: Or is this just something you, as an aging parent, expect from your children without asking them? If you are in a family with multiple children, do you as children discuss caring for aging parents regularly? Talking about care responsibilities for aging parents is a great discussion to have before parents need more and more and more care.
0:19:09:06 Pamela D Wilson: Siblings who don’t help care for aging parents are a major area of disagreement in families and results in divided family relationships that sometimes can’t be repaired. Emotions surrounding family relationships when caring for elderly parents often run high. Learning or having conflict resolution skills is beneficial in many care relationships, not only with your own family but also with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and others.
0:19:45:53 Pamela D Wilson: Change often means conflict. Unexpected changes can result in family crises and rushed decision-making. If you’re a caregiver, you’ve probably been in those situations. Parents refusing or failing to discuss their care wishes with children can result in a knock-down drag out battles where your brothers and sisters disagree about what an aging parent does or doesn’t want for care. How are your conflict resolution skills? How are your people, interpersonal, and communication skills?
0:20:23:34 Pamela D Wilson: If they’re rusty, you’re probably having difficulty working with family and others to accomplish care for parents. I meet with caregivers who say, “well, this is the way I am, and I’m not going to change for anybody.” Some caregivers feel that siblings or others take advantage of their good nature or they have negative opinions about other people’s motives. In some instances, caregivers become so controlling that their behaviors drive siblings and others away who might be helpful.
0:20:56:99 Pamela D Wilson: It’s no secret that caregiving can be a stressful and emotional experience. Caregivers become resentful and angry. When this happens, what is good about being a caregiver? You may be thinking—absolutely nothing! At times we all feel this way. However, I’m a glass half full instead of a glass half empty girl. I believe there is a lesson in every experience if we are open to searching for the good instead of only focusing on the bad.
0:21:29:33 Pamela D Wilson: Changing the way we think about situations to consider other opinions, the effects of our actions on others, and realize that we may not always be right can improve our emotional health and the care we receive for aging parents. Did you ever consider that your behavior toward someone might result in a refusal to help you—which then becomes a refusal to help your parent?
0:21:58:86 Pamela D Wilson: In my professional working relationships with others, my focus is always on my client even if there is a conflict or a disagreement. I don’t believe in adversarial relationships where one side wins, and the other side loses. Because caring for parents is a personal experience, it’s easy to take interactions personally, beginning with how an aging parent reacts to the caregiver.
0:22:27:15 Pamela D Wilson: Aging parents who don’t feel well can be short-tempered. Parents with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or any type of cognitive diagnosis can have agitated, paranoid, accusatory, aggressive, or mean behaviors. The behavior isn’t your parent, the behavior is a result of the disease over which your parent has no control. What’s good about being a caregiver? In these instances, it’s the ability to step back and recognize that a parent’s response is due to a temporary or permanent condition and to practice the act of acceptance and forgiveness.
0:23:15:37 Pamela D Wilson: In professional relationships where disagreements arise, set aside personal judgments or anger and focus on the outcome of the relationship benefitting your parent. Visualize your parent getting the care they want, need, and deserve. It’s okay to say in a disagreement. “I understand how you feel that way, I have my own feelings about the matter. We may not agree But—it’s not about us. It’s about care for my mother or father or for the client or patient.
0:23:52:09 Pamela D Wilson: What steps need to happen so that we can work this out together?” Even in families where disagreements exist, creating scorched earth relationships may make you feel better for a moment, But it doesn’t help the relationship with your brothers and sisters or anyone else with your parent. What’s good about being a caregiver? Insights to realize that damaging any relationship because of personal feelings, biases, judgments, or history does not help the situation of an aging parent or the caregiver.
0:24:30:44 Pamela D Wilson: I know many caregivers who don’t even like their parents. But they remain involved because of a sense of duty and responsibility. In these situations, I counsel caregivers to set and keep boundaries that allow for parents to receive care. Sometimes this involves hiring paid caregivers or using other services. What’s good about being a caregiver is that you don’t always have to be the primary caregiver unless you think this is the only option. Many options exist.
0:25:09:25 Pamela D Wilson: We’re off to another break where we will return to talk about the effects, risks, and negatives of being a caregiver. Thank you for following and communicating with me on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, and YouTube, where I have hundreds of videos, to ask questions and provide your thoughts for topics for this podcast, videos, and articles on my website. Our communication is a two-way street. You can also complete the caregiver survey on my website pameladwilson.com to offer thoughts, suggestions, and information. I’m Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation, Stay with me I’ll be right back.
0:26:21:57 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson on the Caring Generation. Tips, articles, videos, this podcast, my book The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes, online webinar courses about becoming a guardian, or things you should know about caring for aging parents at home are on my website at pameladwilson.com. If you are a working caregiver, and your company does not offer support or educational programs for caregivers share my information with your human resources department and ask them to contact me.
0:26:55:37 Pamela D Wilson: I provide on-site and virtual programs for corporations and groups interested in supporting caregivers. What’s good about caregiving? The third category to answer this question is about the effects of caregiving on the person who needs care, the caregiver, and the family. Let’s begin with the negative effects on aging parents. When you become an older adult who needs care, you will have greater insight into losing your physical and mental capabilities.
0:27:27:86 Pamela D Wilson: You can say as a young person, this won’t happen to you, but the future is impossible to predict. Persons who need care, especially persons with dementia, feel as if they are losing total control over their lives. Imagine how you might feel in a split second when you look at the person in bed next to you, and you don’t remember who they are.
0:27:52:56 Pamela D Wilson: If you want a humorous take on the idea of short-term memory loss —not making fun of the seriousness of this but—to help those of you who aren’t familiar with dementia realize the frustration that caregivers experience every day when mom or dad can’t remember a conversation from 5 seconds go. Yes, 5 seconds, not five minutes. Check out the movie 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.
0:28:21:58 Pamela D Wilson: In fact, play this movie for family, your parent with memory loss. It’s delightful and funny. The movie has a lot of animals in it—which seems to be enjoyable for persons with dementia. Losing physical and mental abilities may be hard for young caregivers to imagine when you are active and don’t have a single ache in your body. If you are 50 or older and have a few aches and pains, you may have a few ideas of what aging parents experience.
0:28:53:98 Pamela D Wilson: Older adults and aging parents can have many medical issues that mean taking a lot of medications and having food restrictions like no or low salt or limited fluids due to heart conditions. In the next segment, Dr. Andrea Maier and I discuss aging diseases and the likelihood that a single diagnosis today will likely affect other body parts and cause additional health issues in a matter of years.
0:29:24:35 Pamela D Wilson: What does all this mean? As my grandma would say when she smiled and shook her crooked arthritic finger at me, “it’s no good to get old.” If you don’t realize that today—someday you will. Other effects of needing a caregiver include becoming dependent on another person who may or may not want to care for you and feeling like you are a burden to others. If you wonder why older people get mean, this is part of the answer.
0:29:56:80 Pamela D Wilson: You become a prisoner in a physical body that may be falling apart. It may be difficult to leave your home. Your spouse and other friends keep dying, and your children resent you. On the other hand, caregivers trade positive aspects of their lives to become caregivers, also feeling resentful and mean. You give up friends, education, career, marriage, children, income, your retirement savings, and sometimes your homes.
0:30:31:57 Pamela D Wilson: Here’s a list of podcasts from The Caring Generation that discuss these topics more in-depth. Listen and share them with your family. Ready? You can write these down or visit the page for this podcast on my website where I will place links for you and you can simply click. Episode Number 6 Managing Work-Life Balance. This show features an interview with Dr. Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez sharing research about mid-life health concerns. Episode 9 What to Do When Work and Caregiving Collide.
0:31:06:40 Pamela D Wilson: Episode 28 How to Keep a Job and Care for Elderly Parents features an interview with Attorney Cynthia Calvert about caregiver discrimination in the workplace. Episode 41 Eldercare Workplace Solutions features an interview with Dr. Christopher Fagundes about the effects of stress on the immune system for caregivers, just in case you don’t believe that caregiving harms your health and well-being, listen to that show.
0:31:36:15 Pamela D Wilson: If you have a caregiving question, I probably have a podcast responding to your concerns. Check out all of The Caring Generation podcasts. There are over 100. Let’s turn to healthcare workers and the stress that they experience. Hospitals are fast-paced workplaces, especially the emergency room. There is the stress of responding to patients who are experiencing life-threatening illnesses. Emotions run high.
0:32:06:29 Pamela D Wilson: Nurses, CNAs, and other hospital workers see patients come and go. This means just when you get to know a patient—they leave the hospital for a care center or return home and you might wonder whatever happened to that person. Healthcare workers in nursing homes care for patients who are still medically frail to help improve their health. In these situations, care workers are dealing with the patient and the patient’s family members who may also bring a lot of emotions and worry into the situation
0:32:40:81 Pamela D Wilson: Not to diminish any single caregiver’s experience, but if you are a family caregiver, can you imagine responding positively to 25 people or more every day who are coming to you for one reason or another, to complain, to express concerns and who may be emotionally distraught. And then, at 5 o’clock, you go home to take care of an aging parent, a sick spouse, or children. Many healthcare workers and family caregivers are double or triple-duty caregivers.
0:33:19:37 Pamela D Wilson: You feel like you have to be on 24/7. Because time spent in care activities, either in your family or at work, is physically and mentally exhausting, many of you feel drained. You have nothing left at the end of the day to give to anyone, including yourself. You don’t commit time to attend medical appointments for yourself even though you don’t feel well. You give up pleasurable activities to trade the time to care for your parents. No exercise, no playtime for you.
0:33:53:74 Pamela D Wilson: You’re lucky to get a few minutes in the bathroom every day to yourself. And when this happens, many caregivers tell me that they are having crying spells in the bathroom with the door locked so that nobody else in the family sees how upset you are. What’s good about being a caregiver? The strength and tenacity that you have to keep going. You get up every day and do it all over again. But that strength comes with personal risks to your health and well-being.
0:34:26:31 Pamela D Wilson: Caregivers dislike hearing the words self-care or recommendations to take care of yourself. Even still, I’ll keep passing along this message because I know caregivers who have felt this way who eventually made time for themselves or took a few days off. Seeing and feeling the difference in their emotions, bodies, and moods made these caregivers realize they had to begin doing things differently. No more 24/7 caregiving.
0:34:58:24 Pamela D Wilson: What’s good about being a caregiver? Eventually realizing and accepting that you don’t have to do it all. Being willing to investigate options to make a better care plan for an aging parent or a loved one. You don’t have to do it all alone. I’m here to help. Visit my website to schedule a 1:1 telephone or video consultation with me. Click on How I Help and then Eldercare Consultation. Up next, Dr. Andrea Maier talks about living a long and healthy life. This is Pamela D Wilson on the Caring Generation. Stay with me; I’ll be right back.
0:36:01:21 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation, available worldwide on your favorite music and podcast apps. Listen and follow the program for proven, reliable tips, information, resources, and research about caregiving, aging, health, and everything in between. What’s good about being a caregiver? Gaining insights about living a long and healthy life. I’d like you to meet Dr. Andrea Maier.
0:36:34:77 Pamela D Wilson: Dr. Maier, thank you so much for joining me. I found your research about longevity, and I have a few questions for you. Cellular aging affects longevity. What is the difference between biological and chronological age?
0:36:46:59 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Chronological age is very different from the biological age, and it’s very important that I would say everybody knows that. The chronological age is the age in your passport. So that’s your actual age. Whereas your biological age is the age of your body, how it is aging. And the biological age can be younger, and it can be much older. Depends on how your cells work, your organs work, and what you do and what you don’t do. So the biological age is really the age of your body at that point in time, and the chronological age is your passport’s age.
0:37:29:77 Dr. Andrea B Maier: I will give you an example. A person can be 70 years of age chronologically. Biologically such a person can be 40 or can be 80. It depends on how many diseases that person has, and that’s really dependent on, for example, lifestyle factors or what kind of genes somebody has. So if the mother and father was choosing wisely and getting the good genes or not and based don that your biological age is determined.
0:38:04:64 Pamela D Wilson: And then the research mentions a link between insulin production and the body, aging, and cognitive issues like dementia. How do these issues link together?
0:38:16:79 Dr. Andrea B Maier: The body has to be seen as a whole, and that’s very important. So a body is not just a brain. The body is not just a heart or a lung. In medicine, we often select these kinds of organs, for example, the brain and the lungs, and the heart, to treat them if there is a disease. But what we already know is that the aging process is occurring in every organ system. So while time goes on, the brain is aging, the heart is aging, the lung is aging, and there are factors contributing to that aging process. One of the factors is how well you are controlling your sugar level in your body.
0:39:01:10 Dr. Andrea B Maier: And if the sugar level is higher, it’s much more likely that your brain, your heart, and your lungs is aging faster. And of course, we know if the sugar level is higher, then it’s also more likely that you have some sort of diabetes that can be treated to reverse the sugar level and to get it down and there slow the aging process, for example, other body systems than the brain, the heart, and the lungs. So you have to see the body being interconnected and the heart talking to the brain, the brain talking to the lungs, the muscles talking to the bones, etc.
0:39:42:31 Pamela D Wilson: So, in addition to diabetes, circulatory issues like heart disease can also affect cognition. Why isn’t there more public education? Why don’t doctors talk to consumers about the point you made that all of these body parts are linked, and there’s just not enough information about that. Why not?
0:40:00:43 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Yes, that’s a good question. I think we have to learn if you consider modern medicine just that it occurred 50 years ago. Of course, in the last 50 to 60 years, we got all of the interventions and medications. We learned everything about the internal organs, and we learned how to treat it. So we now know that if you have diabetes that you should take Metformin, for example, to lower the sugar level. We know that if you have heart disease and that it’s ischemic that it can be treated.
0:40:36:62 Dr. Andrea B Maier: And in the last, I would say 10-15 years, we are learning that if you are treating one organ system that is affected that also other organ systems are affected. So as you know, education in public is a little bit slow—that’s a pity, but that is the reason we are doing this podcast. That we are now learning that if somebody, for example, at age 70, has a heart disease that that person is much more likely to also have a lung disease or a brain disease five years later. And that’s what we are learning from the moment from biological data, looking at data from lots of individuals around the world and while learning that we also try to create more education.
0:41:21:31 Dr. Andrea B Maier: So listeners should really now be aware of that if you have one disease, ask your doctor, what’s the chance that I’ll have another disease in 5 years’ time or 10 years’ time which is based on the aging process. And most of the age-related diseases are, of course, based on the aging process. Like dementia, like heart failure, like COPD, like another disease is cancer and whatnot. What most of the diseases at 50, 60 plus, 90% are age-related.
0:41:55:79 Pamela D Wilson: And you’re an expert in longevity, and it seems like we don’t talk about this enough. Some of your research mentions nutrient-sensing pathways that impact cell health and cognition. How does that work?
0:42:10:45 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Yes, those are very good questions. You have to think about your body as composed of tons of cells and these cells need to have a certain diet. They have to be fed. So they need glucose. So, glucose, the principal, is not bad. Glucose is good because your body gets the calories. Only if your glucose level is too high then we are talking about diabetes and then it’s a stressor. So, we know that we need the glucose. We need proteins, and we need everything else we are eating if it’s a healthy diet on daily living.
0:42:51:65 Dr. Andrea B Maier: And while having all the proteins, the good ones and the glucose, we treat our body quite positively, so the cells get what they need and therewith create health. If we have a diet which is abnormal, which is not healthy. So, for example, too much fats, too much glucose, there were are also influencing our cells which have to work harder and therewith act differently and there, in the end, we have age-related diseases.
0:43:28:04 Pamela D Wilson And so is there a way to know. (edit beep?) I know that we can get bloodwork and we can get tests—is there a way if someone was interested that they could find out how their nutrient levels in the body were doing or more about glucose production and insulin production?
0:43:45:83 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Absolutely. So the GP or specialists in internal medicine can measure for example, the glucose level but also hormones and vitamins. Very important from the age of 40, 50 onward is for example, to measure your vitamin D level and there’s a supplement, of course for vitamin D, but also hormones, like thyroid hormones are very important for you to measure and of course, the glucose level which is standard practice in a GP practice.
0:44:23:19 Pamela D Wilson: Have you heard anything about or heard women that go through menopause sometimes become diabetic because hormone levels get off. Do you know anything about that?
0:44:32:84 Dr. Andrea B Maier: I wouldn’t say that there’s a clear link. We know that menopause is associated with a couple of disruptions in not only the hormonal level, but the link to glucose is not very strong. It’s more an indirect link that if you don’t feel well during menopause, you eat more and therewith have an increase in BMI, et cetera and there is a glucose dysregulation. But it’s not that menopause directly leads to diabetes.
0:45:09:42 Pamela D Wilson: So share the research about current medications that might help minimize physical and cognitive declines with the goal of us living healthier longer.
0:45:19:03 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Yes. I’m working in the field of geroscience. And geroscience means that we try to understand the way how our body works during the aging process, and we try to intervene. And interventions, you can think about lifestyle, like eating all the good things, moving very actively to have good physical activity. A good sleep pattern is also very important. No alcohol or not much alcohol.
0:45:49:65 Dr. Andrea B Maier: So these are all the lifestyle interventions. But in the last 5 to 10 years, we are also very curious if medications which are already there and we know how they work if they could interfere with the aging process. So make us living longer, healthier and therewith minimize physical and cognitive decline with age. And some of these examples is Metformin. Metformin is being given to individuals with diabetes. It’s the most prescribed medication for diabetes.
0:46:29:86 Dr. Andrea B Maier: So now, a very big trial is ongoing after lots of positive results giving Metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, to healthy—relatively healthy individuals without diabetes. So a normal glucose level to even lower the glucose level to see if that helps to improve physical and cognitive function and to delay age-related diseases. We have, next to Metformin, hundreds of other medications which are tested at the moment. And you can think about rapamycin which is given, for example, for transplantations. We have lithium which is given for psychotic disease etc. These are just a couple of examples.
0:47:16:94 Pamela D Wilson: You travel around the world, and you teach around the world are any parts of the, you know, different countries that have a higher level in this longevity research, or you think that are further along than others?
0:47:29:65 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Yes, there are a couple of countries lying in the epicenter, I would say at the moment and that’s Singapore. Of course, Singapore recognized that the population is aging and while the population is aging, there are also a lot of age-related diseases. So they are investing very heavily in the moment and in the future to keep their population healthy. There are also other countries like the U.S. and like some European countries that are heavily invested to keep up the population more healthy and to prevent age-related diseases.
0:48:07:69 Pamela D Wilson: A lot of people don’t go to the doctor until they’re sick. What would have to happen, so people knew more about this cellular aging and longevity. Is it more consumers becoming active, or is it really the healthcare system talking to consumers and patients?
0:48:24:45 Dr. Andrea B Maier: That’s a good statement or a good question. Of course, the healthcare system—I am a doctor, and I specialize in internal medicine, and I’m a geriatrician. I always see my patients when they’re already sick, which means I see patients. So it would be much better if we would redesign our healthcare system to really implement prevention in our actions and our daily life. Of course, we don’t have to wait until there are abnormal values when we call somebody being a diabetic or having dementia, or having heart failure. We already can detect abnormalities before that happens, and we try to do that in healthcare by saying there is the pre-disease stage.
0:49:15:74 Dr. Andrea B Maier: However that’s not really implemented yet. So lots has to happen. The healthcare system has to recognize that we can evaluate disease processes much earlier in life. There needs to be much more education as we are doing at the moment that people know that we can detect the aging process. That we can detect the biological age. And then, of course, the health insurers have to recognize and say okay I can spend a value of money to treat diseased individuals however I could also invest in preventing that which is much more cost-effective in the end.
0:50:00:24 Pamela D Wilson: Okay, I’m going to play devil’s advocate on that one. So if it’s more cost-effective, that it means insurance companies would make less money. Do we really think that they would do that?
0:50:10:63 Dr. Andrea B Maier: It’s dependent if they have to spend more money because their insured individuals are sick. Then, of course, it makes absolute sense, and it depends, of course on the healthcare system and how the health insurers are working with governments, etc. So, in the end, I think, worldwide, it has to be very clear that we have to change our healthcare system. Because at the moment we spend too much money for already sick individuals. And we have to prevent it, and they would save money overall.
0:50:45:77 Pamela D Wilson: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
0:50:48:39 Dr. Andrea B Maier: Treat your body well. So everyone who is listening at the moment, hopefully, you are not sitting but listening to the podcast while walking or running. The next thing I would like to say to the listeners is, please enjoy your life because how you feel interacts massively with how your body is functioning.
0:51:12:10 Pamela D Wilson: A lot of great information from Dr. Andrea Maier. My suggestion for all—at your next doctor appointment, ask your doctor the questions she recommended. Do I have any abnormal lab values that indicate I may be in a pre-disease state that I should know about? Which of my current diagnoses may lead to related health issues in a year, three years, or five years—and what are these illnesses?
0:51:42:70 Pamela D Wilson: Then, most importantly, what can I do to prevent all of these conditions from getting worse? Your doctor may not be able to answer all of these questions in detail at a single appointment, but at least you’ll have a roadmap for starting in the right direction and beginning the conversation I want to share an article and a podcast on this topic. You’ll want to visit this podcast page for the links. The first is the article Making Patient Engagement and Education a Reality.
0:52:14:46 Pamela D Wilson: The associated podcast is Episode 16 Why is Patient Education and Engagement So Important? This podcast features an interview with Dr. Mayer Davidson about diabetes prevention that takes the conversation with Dr. Andrea Maier from this program one step forward. We’re off to a break. I’m Pamela D Wison on The Caring Generation. Stay with me; I’ll be right back.
0::53:11:85 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving speaker, expert, and advocate on The Caring Generation program for caregivers and aging adults. Whether you are twenty or 100 years old, you’re in exactly the right place to learn about caregiver support programs to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead. If you’re not sure how to talk to your children about caregiving issues or if you’ve tried to talk to your aging parents or your family, let me start the conversation for you by sharing this podcast and over 100 episodes with everyone you know.
0:53:45:98 Pamela D Wilson: What’s good about being a caregiver? Let’s talk about the last category, which relates to where do you spend your time? This question is relevant whether you are a caregiver or not, young or old, a person who lives independently, or an individual who needs care. It also doesn’t matter where in the world you live. The question that leads to the answer about what’s good about wanting to help other people or be a caregiver is how do you spend your time.
0:54:21:83 Pamela D Wilson: This may seem like a simple question, right? But really—do you know how you spend your time every day? Do you know where you put your attention? Most people think they know how they spend their time. Most people have no idea. So what happens? You wake up one day at 30, 40, 50, 60, 80—you look back at your life, wondering where did all that time go?
0:54:52:72 Pamela D Wilson: Or you are a caregiver, and now it’s 5, 10, 15, or 20 years down the road, and you realize that you traded 25% of your life to care for another person. We can’t get back time or turn back the clock. All we have is today because we never know. We may not have tomorrow. While many caregivers say they wouldn’t trade the experience, many caregivers after the fact tell me they would have done things differently. So, what’s good about being a caregiver?
0:55:27:65 Pamela D Wilson: Realizing today that you can do things differently and make other choices. How do you spend your time every day, every week, every month? When I was legally responsible for my clients, I had to account for every minute of my day. My staff had to account for every minute of their day to ensure that their efforts produced a measurable result for our clients. This was not a job for a person who didn’t enjoy being accountable or who wanted to show up at 8, leave at five without accomplishing anything.
0:56:06:17 Pamela D Wilson: If you want to know how you spend your time, where you put your attention and how much time you lose every day in activities that don’t produce any measurable results, spend a day or a couple of days clocking your activities into 10 or 15-minute increments. You may be surprised by how much time you lose by being distracted.
0:56:30:27 Pamela D Wilson: You might find one, two, or more hours that you decide to trade for other activities that result in a more positive or healthier life. While it’s important to find time for enjoyable activities and play – do you sit at home in the evenings and watch crazy television shows that don’t add to your life when you could be taking a class, learning something, attending a social activity with friends, or exercising.
0:57:00:05 Pamela D Wilson: Why not commit to invest an hour in you every Monday evening and give up watching an hour’s reality show—or an hour every day? What are the activities you say that you really want to do but you never quite get to them? What are you waiting for? If you are a caregiver watching everyone else enjoy their lives, what are you waiting for? I’m a firm believer in being helpful to family members but not at the expense of your children, your marriage, your career, your education, or your health.
0:57:37:43 Pamela D Wilson: While you think you don’t have any other options—they exist. But it’s not until you are mentally in a place where you are willing to change you, your beliefs, and your habits and worry less about what others think about you. If you are a caregiver, you have likely given your time—years of your time to trade for caregiving activities. What’s good about being a caregiver? Realizing that now is the time for you!
0:58:09:27 Pamela D Wilson: If you are an aging adult or a caregiver not sure what to do or how to plan for care, or how to get your life back, my website PamelaDWilson.com offers resources for caregivers. Check out my caregiving library, my Caring for Aging Parents blog, listen to all of The Caring Generation podcasts, read the show transcripts, check out the research watch videos, check out my online caregiver courses that are like binge-watching a Netflix series online, and introduce your parents, siblings, friends, family, and co-workers to my YouTube Channel, featuring hundreds of caregiver videos.
0:58:49:27 Pamela D Wilson: There’s something for everyone at PamelaDWilson.com. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Love to everyone. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and pleasant journeys until we are here together again.
0:59:09:04 Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D Wilson’s The Caring Generation.
Looking For Help With Your Caregiving Situation? Learn More About Scheduling an Elder Care Consultation With Pamela D Wilson
©2021 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved